History Matters

By Joanie Buettgen-Copyright 2009

What a great first impression I had as I entered the old Cottage Hospital. Friendly faces welcomed me as we sat around a beautiful oak dining room table. We enjoyed freshly brewed coffee, followed by scrumptious freshly-baked dessert-then we started our meeting.

This gathering was with the Watertown Area Historical Society members. Our agenda was long and detailed as we made the final arrangements for “Pretty Much 100% Scandinavian.” This event was initiated by the WAHS and supported by the Watertown Lions Club, and Watertown-Mayer Community Education. 

This video was produced by William Beyer and Stefan Quinth. It is a light-hearted exploration of contemporary Scandinavian America which included introductory remarks by Beyer and Quinth and a 15-minute video shot in Watertown.

This premier showing was on Monday, Nov. 2 at the Primary School. I had the honor of interviewing the two creative minds behind this production.

The first man on my list was Dr. William Beyer recently retired as Director of Museum Education, Collections and Programs at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis. Beyer was the aspiring film director of the movie, “Pretty Much 100% Scandinavian.” Beyer was a delight to listen to as he told of his passion for interviewing people and archiving Scandinavian heritage. Beyer is the American part of this creation and Stefan Quinth is the Swedish part.”

The other part of this twosome is Quinth. He has created films for European and United States television, and has won numerous awards all over the world. He started his career when he was 14 years old at a newspaper on the weekends.

Quinth’s home is in Vastergotland, Sweden and he is also based in Alaska. In 2004, Quinth toured the Midwest and the American Swedish Institute with his film about the 1,000 year-old winter trade route by horse and sled between Sweden and Norway. In 2007, Beyer invited Quinth to contribute his work to an ASI exhibit on Swedish wildlife art.

During that 2007 visit, Quinth showed clips of interviews he had on Kodiak Island with local Scandinavian people. Quinth had walked the local countryside and came upon many headstones with Scandinavian names on them. His father came from Sweden and he asked local townspeople, “Why were they here?” They told Quinth that some people had left their Scandinavian countries because of religious persecution, and many knew very little about their fathers and grandfathers. Quinth then realized that this film would become more of a family project. These clips motivated Beyer and Quinth to attempt a similar project in Minnesota.

After three years and more than 120 hours of interviews with 150 Scandinavians throughout Minnesota, the pair created the first showing of “Pretty Much 100% Scandinavian.” At the present time they have rough cut footage for Saga II, III which will be shown in the fall of 2010 and 2011.

In today’s society, a “sense of story” is sorely lacking in many families; many of these time-honored facts may soon disappear as our older generation ages-we need to capture them now.

To record these family memories and moments Quinth added, “Turn off that TV and get a recorder of your own…these stories are a tremendous asset to our communities and families long after they have died.”

Mary Eklund, a member of WAHS, has this to say after the video, “This was an excellent turnout…people seemed to enjoy the music by John Eklund.”

In addition, Charlotte Johnson a fellow WAHS member commented, “I enjoyed it especially the accents of the people in the film.”

We welcome new members to our Watertown Area Historical Society…because history matters, now more than ever.

For comments contact Joanie at or Blog:,


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